Even if you’re not a history buff, it’s hard to walk to the NYSSCPA’s Wall Street offices and not be wowed by a sense of place—a stone’s throw away from the New York Stock Exchange is Federal Hall, which stands on the spot where George Washington took his oath of office as the first President of the United States. The Society’s front door lies a few steps (and a short elevator ride) away from both landmarks.

So it’s always easy for me to imagine the founders of the New York State Society of CPAs and their sense of purpose as they met in rooms off of Wall Street nearly 120 years ago to put into writing the objectives of their fledgling professional association for this newly recognized profession. The Society’s founders understood that, in the words of past President Henry A. Horne, “something more than a title for practitioners was needed to make a profession.”

While the general mission of the NYSSCPA remains unchanged, fulfilling it is a bit more complicated than it was when the membership consisted of 18 young men in a meeting room. In order to make sure we continue to meet the needs of the tens of thousands of members in every part of the state—most practicing in fields that didn’t even exist in 1897—we surveyed our entire membership earlier this year. The resulting report is the most important resource we have in helping us to develop new programs, retire outdated ones, and better communicate the benefits of membership.

How Are We Doing?

In designing the survey, we had six primary questions:

  • Which factors influenced members to join and maintain their membership, and what led them to participate in benefits or programs?
  • Which benefits provide the highest level of value and member satisfaction?
  • What are the gaps between the importance of certain benefits and member satisfaction with those benefits?
  • Where should we increase, maintain, or divest our resources?
  • Which resources do underserved member audiences want or need that could be met with current or new benefit programs?
  • What keeps members or potential members from joining the Society or increasing their engagement?

What did surveyed members rate as the top benefit of belonging to the Society? Well, you’re reading it right now—The CPA Journal has for years been rated the most valued part of Society membership. Ninety-three percent of survey respondents read The CPA Journal; members also gave it high marks for its importance and satisfaction.

What weren’t members so happy about? With more than a 90% retention rate, members said they are likely to recommend to others a membership in the NYSSCPA; however, it’s wrong to assume that continuing membership alone equates to satisfaction. About 40% of members felt that the benefits of membership do not outweigh the costs, with the price of CPE being cited as the main reason why. Interestingly, while the cost of CPE was the main driver behind member dissatisfaction, CPE was also rated by members as one of the most important and satisfactory NYSSCPA benefits. Members also reported that more technical and online CPE resources and additional networking opportunities would increase their membership’s value. We also learned that some of the most highly rated programs or benefits have the least amount of participation. For instance, only 3% of members surveyed have participated in the Society’s Key Contact program, but nearly 50% of those who do participate in it rated it as “very important,” a higher level than any other benefit. Other programs with high scores but limited participation include committee membership and the Society’s technical hotline, all free membership benefits.

The survey now becomes the basis of an action plan to make members aware of the benefits and discounts that come with membership and to highlight the benefits that many love but few use. Over the next year, our goal is to increase the satisfaction ratings for Society membership, as well as for all NYSSCPA events and courses. We’ll survey membership satisfaction again in a few years to see how we’re doing.

I want to thank every member who took the time to respond with your opinions. You may not realize it, but you participated in a tradition that began nearly 120 years ago with the 18 founding members of the NYSSCPA. They recognized the importance of creating a sense of place for CPAs throughout New York State. The work we do today will ensure that current and future generations of Society members find value in the NYSSCPA community.

Joanne S. Barry, CAE. Publisher, The CPA Journal Executive Director & CEO, NYSSCPA.